Thanks to a friend who notified me of an article at IGN Cube which confirmed that a Japanese Gamecube could be modified to play U.S. games, I decided to go ahead and import. Last week I received the system, a controller, a memory card and two games, and now that I’ve had them for a week, I thought I would share my initial thoughts and impressions with you all. Plus, I wanted to enjoy the bragging privileges of a guy who has a highly anticipated videogame console a month before everyone else! The Console Let me begin by saying that I got the indigo-colored system, since that is the only one available in Japan. I know many of you wretch at the thought of owning a purple videogame console, but I have to admit that I like this color. It’s not tacky at all. Is it as sharp and sophisticated-looking as the black version? Probably not. Does the color make the system look like a toy? Yes, but I’ve always thought of videogames as toys anyway, so it doesn’t bother me. I actually, think this color give the system an added visual flare sadly lacking in the shape of the console. Let’s face it—the Gamecube is just that: a cube that plays games. It certainly isn’t as stylish as the N64 (or even the Super NES). Hell, the original NES had more curves than this thing! Nintendo has clearly chosen to follow a more function-over-form approach with their new system, which is in some ways a good thing. The unusual color reminds us that this little box is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. The system also features a reasonable build quality. A plastic shell encases the system, and the handle on the back is not at all flimsy like I had expected. I would say that this system couldn’t take as much physical abuse as the N64 could, but that has to do with the fact that this is a disc-based system and not a cartridge one. The moving parts, the lens all have to be treated with a tad more care, but unless you plan on playing catch with GCN instead of a ball, you need not worry about breaking it. The Controller After reading so much about Nintendo’s new controller, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Let me just say that they have crafted one hell of a controller! When I held it in my hands the first time, I wondered if Nintendo had taken a molding of my hands and designed a controller specially designed specifically for me. It is that comfortable. They accounted for very curve, every contour of the human hand. Your thumbs and forefingers neatly fall onto the main action buttons and main control stick. The innovative button layout works as was intended. It allows you to focus on gameplay instead of worry about hitting the correct button. I had worried that the A button (the largest button in the center) would be too big, but my fears were alleviated once I held the controller. You can easily hit three buttons at the same time with just your one thumb. It works very well. The analog L and R shoulder buttons are a nice touch, and the extra click function looks like it will be promising. The only problem with those buttons is that sometimes in the heat of a game, I push too hard and activate the click function when I don’t want to. I hope I can learn not to do this for games like Rogue Leader, which use the extra click to open and close the S-foils on your X-wing. The two control sticks feel very rubbery, giving the a slightly better grip than the plastic-coated control stick of the N64. And for you fighter fans who worry that the crosspad will be inaccessible, fear not. You can easily reach it with your left thumb. Of course the biggest question is, will this thing hold up when you play those really frustrating games that cause you to throw the controller on the floor in complete disgust? I think so. I’d say the build quality is as good as the N64 controller. Of course, it doesn’t compare to the original NES controller, which was like a tank compared to these. : ) The Games Rather than go into detail about the two games I got with the system, Luigi’s Mansion and Wave Race: Blue Storm, I’ll give you the pros and cons of each game as I see them. Luigi’s Mansion Great Graphics Wonderfully detailed characters, environments, lighting effects, and particle effects give the game an eerie cartoony quality. Excellent Sound Dolby Surround Sound is put to good use in this game, creating subtle ambience affects. Tight Control It may take a while to get used to using both control sticks, once you’ve mastered it, you’ll appreciate the added control you have over Luigi. Interesting Puzzles There wasn’t anything particularly nasty or overly difficult about the puzzles. They were tricky, but fun to figure out. Fun! Who would have thought that catching ghosts with a flashlight and a vacuum cleaner could be this exciting? Repetitive The game is pretty much Luigi busting ghosts. That’s it. Also, there’s only one main background song through the whole game. Granted, it’s extremely catchy and they do give it a slightly different spin depending on where you are, but it’s still the same song over and over. Short and Sweet This could be both good and bad. It’s not as big as most games, but since the gameplay is very repetitive, making it any longer would have caused the fun factor to drop significantly. Overall A fun game, but I don’t think you should buy it. Rent it over a weekend. You should be able to finish it before you return it. Wave Race: Blue Storm Stunning Graphics The wave effects in this game will blow your mind! The level of detail in this game staggers me. This game truly deserves to be called a next-generation title in the graphics department. Great Sound Everything about the audio in this game is dead on. The roar of the jet skis, the splash of the waves, and the crackle of thunderstorms are all captured faithfully in this game. Dolby Surround is also utilized so you can hear someone coming up from behind in your rear speakers. Annoying Announcers Alas, as was the case in Wave Race 64, the annoying announcers are back, only this time out, each character has their own personalized announcer, who feels the need to say something every single time you go around a frickin’ buoy!!! Argh! I eventually turned off the voice altogether just so that I didn’t have to put up with it any more! Excellent Control A couple weeks ago, another importer on this board lamented this game’s sluggish controls. At first I thought he was right, as I found myself having difficulty turning my character, but then I found that you need to use the L and R buttons in conjunction with the control stick in order to turn better. Once I figured that out, I realized that the control in this game is every bit as good as the original. More In-Depth Gameplay Now whenever you go around five buoys, you can earn a turbo boost that will catapult you forward at great speed. This one new element adds a lot of strategy to the game as you have to prepare for straight-aways where it can be effectively utilized. Good Course Variety and Number of Courses High Difficulty Level I’ve made it through the Normal and Hard circuits, now I’m trying to get through Expert. Let me tell you, it’s going to take a while. Smooth Multi-player Since I only have one controller, I haven’t been able to play any multi-player, but according to IGN, the four-player mode doesn’t slow down at all, making it a great multi-player game. Overall Buy this game. If you liked the original, you’ll love this new version. In fact, I specifically command you to do so. If you own a Gamecube on November 18, 2001 or after, you must have this game. BUY IT!!! So am I happy with my purchase? Absolutely. If these two games are any indication, there should be some awesome games on this console. ------------------ -J.Fo "Why do I always get a warped one?"